An Engineer’s World

(Afrikaans verskyn onder)

The first word he uttered was not “mom” or “dad”, but “tatta” (referring to driving).  He could point out all the vehicle brands before he could talk – just name them and he would point to them with his little finger.  A stop sign was referred to as Toyota and it took us a long time to realise there is a “t.o.” in the word ‘stop’ – the first letters of “Toyota”.  (He became a Nissan fan and could spot any Skyline in a parking lot, even if just a weeny bit of the car was visible).kantoor-kombo

This car fanatic is my youngest brother, Johann.  His choice to study mechanical engineering was  no surprise!

Cars are certainly no interest of mine and petrochemical plants do not tickle my fancy, but I was very excited when brother Johann arranged a visit to the Sasol plant in Secunda (his mechanical engineering ‘world’) as his contribution to my “turning-50-to-do-list”.

on-our-wayThe visit was nothing I expected – it was far more and beyond my wildest expectations …

The Sasol plant is not big – it is HUGE!   The engineering works are not complicated – it is MIND BOGGLING!  I have new respect for engineers (and for my “laatlam boet” Johann) and definitely appreciate fuel more than ever before.

The plant made me feel small:  with streets, stop signs and traffic regulators the plant is close to the size of the town of Secunda. It actually covers a much larger area if the mines, water treatment facilities and game reserve is included. Enormous structures ranging from 70m to 160m tower so high you have to bend your head backwards as far as possible to view to the top! Many different activities take place on one plant – manufacturing of tar, synthetic fuels (including all types of petrol and diesel), gas, fertiliser, various polymers (a variety of plastics and resins)  ….and a water purification plant which purifies all of Secunda’s water as well.johann-lianne-by-plant

I listened, looked, asked questions and knew I will never remember all the details. The more I heard and learned, the more my admiration for Sasol as an organisation grew.  It is impossible to describe the true experience and the mind blowing information and statistics in one blog post, but I hope you will enjoy some of the following interesting facts:

  • Sasol employs ± 34 000 people and operate in 38 countries
  • Sasol is the world’s only commercial coal-based synfuels manufacturing plant
  • Synfuel (synthetic fuel) is a liquid fuel obtained from the gasification of coal
  • Sasol operates one of the world’s largest underground coal mining complexes
  • Sasol supplies ± ⅓ of SA’s inland liquid fuel requirements
  • Sasol’s share price on listing on the JSE in 1979 was only R2; the public offer was in such demand it was 31 times oversubscribed
  • There is a game conservancy area around the Secunda plant, with many different wildlife species, including a thriving Serval Cat population
  • Secunda is the Latin name for “second” – so called as it was the second town established by Sasol following Sasolburg
  • The tallest free standing structure in Africa is found inside the Sasol plant – a concrete stack of 301 m

Secunda and Sasol are synonymous ….. also the hometown of family and the employee of my brother Johann, but for me, it will never have the same meaning again.

What have I learned?  Where there are cooling towers and very high chimneys, hectic stuff is happening and very responsible staff are employed.

secunda-familie

 

 

My Secunda family ♥

 

 

 

 

Die Wêreld van ‘n Ingenieur

Die eerste woorde wat hy kon sê, was nie “mamma” of “pappa” nie, maar “tatta” (kom ons gaan ry!)  Hy kon al die voertuig handelsmerke uitwys voor hy kon praat – noem hulle net en hy wys na hulle met sy vingertjie. ‘n Stopteken het bekend gestaan as Toyota en dit het ons baie lank geneem om te besef daar is ‘n “t.o.” in the word ‘stop’ – die eerste letters van “Toyota”. (Hy het egter ‘n Nissan bewonderaar geword en kon enige Skyline in ‘n parkeerterrein erken, al was net ‘n klein stukkie van die motor sigbaar).

Hierdie motor-fanatiese man is my jongste broer, Johann.  Sy besluit om meganiese ingenieurswese te studeer, was vereker geen verrassing!

Motors is beslis nie my belangstelling nie en petrochemiese aanlegte interesseer my allermins, maar tog was ek baie opgewonde toe boet Johann vir my ‘n besoek aan die Sasol aanleg in Secunda reël (sy meganiese ingenieurs-wêreld) as bydrae tot my lys van “doendinge-voor-50”.

Die besoek was niks wat ek verwag het nie – dit was baie meer en het my wildste verwagtinge oorskry…

Die Sasol aanleg is nie groot – dis REUSAGTIG!  Die ingenieuswerke is nie ingewikkeld – dis VERBYSTEREND!  Ek het nuwe respek vir ingenieurs (en vir my laatlam boet Johann) en ek waardeer brandstof meer as ooit tevore.

Die aanleg het my klein laat voel:  met strate, stoptekens en verkeersbeamptes is die aanleg amper so groot soos die dorp Secunda.  Dit is eintlik baie groter as die myne, waterwerke en wildreservaat bygereken word.  Enorme strukture wat wissel van 70 m tot 160 m toring so hoog jy moet jou kop sover as moontlik agtertoe gooi om dit tot bo te kan sien.  Baie verskillende aktiwiteite vind plaas op een aanleg – vervaardiging van teer, sintetiese brandstowwe (wat alle tipes petrol en diesel insluit), gas, kunsmis, polimere (‘n verskeidenheid van plastiek en ‘resins’)  …. asook ‘n watersuiweringsaanleg wat al Secunda se water suiwer.

Ek het geluister, gekyk, vrae gevra en geweet ek gaan nooit al die detail onthou nie.  Hoe meer ek geluister en geleer het, hoe meer het my bewondering vir Sasol as maatskappy gegroei.  Dis onmoontlik om die ware ervaring te beskryf in een blogstuk, maar ek hoop jy gaan sommige van die volgende interessante feite geniet:

  • Sasol het ± 34 000 mense in diens en werk in 38 lande
  • Sasol is die wêreld se enigste kommersiële steenkool-gebasseerde aanleg wat sintetiese brandstof vervaardig
  • Synfuel (sintetiese brandstof) is ‘n vloeibare brandstof wat verkry word deur ‘n vergassingsproses (gasification) van steenkool
  • Sasol bedryf een van die wêreld se grootste ondergrondse steenkoolmyne
  • Sasol voorsien in ± ⅓ van Suid-Afrika se binnelandse behoefte aan vloeibare brandstof
  • Met die notering van Sasol op die Johannesburgse Aandelemark, was die aandele prys slegs R2; die publieke aanvraag was egter so groot, dit is 31 maal oorskry.
  • Daar is ‘n wildreservaat rondom die Secunda aanleg met ‘n groot verskeidenheid wildspesies en sluit ‘n vooruitstrewende Tierboskat bevolking in
  • Secunda is die Latynse word vir “tweede” – so genoem aangesien dit die tweede dorp na Sasolburg is wat Sasol gestig het
  • Die hoogste vrystaande struktuur in Afrika is binne die Sasol aanleg – ‘n beton skoorsteen van 301 m

Secunda en Sasol is sinoniem ….. ook die tuisdorp van familie en werkgewer van my broer Johann, maar vir my sal dit nooit weer dieselfde betekenis hê nie.

Wat het ek geleer?  Waar daar verkoelingstorings en hoë skoorstene is, gebeur rowwe dinge en werk baie verantwoordelike personeel.

 

 

 

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